With the mercury closing in on 40 degree celsius, players are facing the toughest challenge during the ongoing Federation Cup football tournament at the Barabati Stadium here.
Humidity and the tight schedule, in which each team plays three group matches in five days, make the 90-minute affair, especially during the afternoon contests starting at 4 p.m., a real test of physical fitness.
The participating teams were concerned about the players' well being and preferred to play a slow-paced game under the sun, for which the warm-up had to start at around 3 p.m, on the first day.
Churchill Brothers coach Derek Pereira said his team had to slow down the game against East Bengal in order to help his players conserve energy and last the full duration. “The players were struggling. It was too tough out there. We tried to slow down the game because of the heat,” said Pereira.
East Bengal assistant coach Ranjan Chowdhury agreed. “Since the conditions were tough, the pace of the game was slow. But this cannot be an excuse as conditions are the same for every team.”
Thankfully for Aizawl FC players, who are used to the cooler climes of its home base in the Meghalaya capital, the opening match against Chennai City FC was played in the evening. Even while maintaining that conditions would be same for all sides, Aizawl coach Khalid Jamil said playing in the heat would require a different approach. “It is playable even though it is very hot. When it is hot, you have to follow a different strategy and play simple,” said Khalid.
Chennai coach V. Soundararajan said it would be desirable to play matches under the lights. “It seems hotter than Chennai. Night matches are better than the day matches,” said Soundararajan.
Even Bengaluru FC and Shillong Lajong FC players, with some of them suffering cramps, had a tough time playing their first match in the afternoon on day two. Shillong coach Thangboi Singto said the weather was “challenging” for the players.
Considering the tight schedule of a calendar year, packed with the Indian Super League (ISL), I-League and continental engagements, the All India Football Federation (AIFF) may have little choice but to slot the Federation Cup in the peak of summer season.
Nevertheless, the AIFF can explore options of allotting matches (by splitting group stage engagements) to centres situated at higher altitudes, such as Shillong and Aizawl, during summers. It will save the players from harsh weather conditions and attract thousands of fans to the stadium.
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